Misuse of the word “turbo”

Today I am going to rant about the widespread unacceptable misuse of the word “Turbo”. There is this common misconception that the word somehow means “fast”. You can buy “turbo” cars, “turbo” computers, “turbo” running shoes and even “turbo” irons(!)

Turbo cars, I hear you say? But surely they exist, and they are really fast!?

Correct. But they are not fast because they are “turbo”. They are fast because they are fitted with a device called a “turbocharger”, which works by using the power of exhaust gasses to compress clean air back into the engine, thus further aspirating it, making the combustion stronger and thus and making it more powerful. It does this using a turbine, much like a very small (and indeed very fast) windmill. Observe HowStuffWorks: Turbochargers for more information.

But still, the word “turbocharger” has the word “turbo” as a subset, so it might imply that something is fast – right? Yes, but implication and meaning are two different thing. It is called a turbocharger because it uses a turbine. “Turbo” is a latin word meaning “an eddy , whirling round; a mental or political disturbance; a child’s top; a reel; a spindle” (reference: UND Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid) – which obviously relates to the turbine as that’s the part that does the whirling and spinning. But that doesn’t mean that “turbo” means “fast”, it simply means “spiral”, “whirl”, which, in the context of a combustion engine, is used as part of one method to make the engine more powerful without adding significant extra weight.

So why oh why oh why do people slap “turbo” stickers on irons and computers when no such whirling or spinning parts are present (CPU fans don’t count, smartarse, making the computer fast is not their purpose). Turbo does NOT mean fast, it means spiral, whirl, spin. Show me where the spinning turbine is on a super w@w turbo iron or the latest Phillipine sweatshop products that you put on your feet.

Yes, yes, I know that the word’s now become so common that its implied meaning is now generally accepted, like a lot of other silly words that make it into the OED every year, but that’s not going to stop me from ranting about the stupidity of it.